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What IS the major difference between single-action lists and projects?
In theory, single action lists are a group of 2 or more unrelated tasks, while a project consists of 2 or more related tasks.

Because you can choose in both types whether you want to make it sequential or parallel...
Not exactly. You set in the info panel if the list is a sequential project, a parallel project, or a single action list.

You can create sequential actions groups in a single action list, but at the top level a single action list is always parallel.

One area where OmniFocus treats the lists differently is when you select "Next Action" as a filter. Assuming no tasks are blocked by start dates, no nested action groups, etc., a filter of "Next Action" will show all tasks in a Single Action list, while parallel and sequential projects will show only the task at the top of the list.